My dear Theo,
In all likelihood you’ll have received the little crate in the last few days.1 I wanted to tell you that I have another similar thing, a white wattle-and-daub cottage, the size slightly more in the width.2
Yesterday I was at a large forest fire on a sweltering afternoon.3 It was a wood in the middle of a bare stretch of heath, and the sight was very singular because of the amazing masses of black and white smoke that were rising straight up. The fire confined itself to the heather, the pine needles and dry branches, though. The trunks remained standing.
I’m very busy with the figure drawings; however I’ll have to make 100 or so before I paint them, since that will save me time and money.
I believe I’ll get them rounder and fuller than before.4
I have absolutely no money, though, and scarcely know how to get through the month.  1v:2
From time to time I can become dispirited that it will always just stay the same, selling nothing.
Still, I carry on and steel myself against it.
Others have borne it, too.

Yours truly,

Wasn’t there a contribution by Lhermitte in May?5
I say it again — work against indifference — perseverance isn’t easy — but things that are easy mean little.
Painting peasant life is something that remains good, and the fight that others won is still going on and one can win it again. Far from there being too many peasant painters — to my mind it would be better if there could be hundreds more.  1v:3
It’s not a bad idea that in France they’re going to decorate the town halls with subjects from rural life, like a number of the paintings that were at the Salon.6 I do think that this will be taken still further.
But — it would be even better for the peasant paintings to come into the houses, straight to the people, in the illustrated magazines and other reproductions.
So when I feel discouragement it’s only in passing.
I heard from home that you’d written something to them about Serret, about how he said I could be assured of his sympathy &c. Is Serret a painter, a dealer or an art lover? As of today, I don’t know.7 I wanted to put Germinal8 in the crate with the paintings, but in the end was afraid it might fall in among them and be damaged. I’ll put it in the next one, though, or return it by post. I think it magnificent.


Br. 1990: 511 | CL: 412
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, Monday, 15 June 1885

1. See for this consignment: letters 504, nn. 4-7 and 507, n. 1.
2. Cottage (F 91 / JH 809 [2519]), which Van Gogh compares to The cottage (F 83 / JH 777 [2513]).
[2519] [2513]
3. In the afternoon of Sunday, 14 June a forest fire raged between Nuenen and Geldrop, according to the report in the Provinciale Noordbrabantsche en ’s-Hertogenbossche Courant of 18 June. Driek Dekkers, who was ten years old at the time, witnessed Van Gogh helping with the fire-fighting efforts until late into the evening. See exhib. cat. ’s-Hertogenbosch 1987, p. 95, and De Brouwer 1984, p. 92.
4. Van Gogh had set himself this goal as a result of what he had read in Gigoux’s Causeries sur l’artistes de mon temps. See letter 506.
6. Van Gogh got this from Mantz’s article ‘Le Salon i’; see letter 502, n. 10. Mantz writes: ‘They resolved, not without reason, to decorate the town halls, and they thought that several of the rooms in municipal buildings, particularly those for Marriages, might be improved by paintings. They also judged that the citizens would be delighted by the sight of rural things’ (On a résolu, non sans raison, de décorer les mairies, et l’on a pensé que plusieurs salles des édifices municipaux, particulièrement celle des Mariages, pourraient être embellies par des peintures. On a même jugé que les citadins seraient réjouis par le spectacle des choses rurales) (p. 1).
7. Theo had mentioned the painter Serret in an undated letter (of about 1 June 1885) to his mother: ‘I do so hope that Vincent will settle down eventually. One cannot expect him to become altogether like an ordinary person, but the best thing is just to let him do as he wants, and perhaps see the good in him. I showed his work again to an old painter (Serret’s his name) who has seen and experienced a great deal in his life and has a good heart and a clear head. He told me that he could see in his work that it was done by someone who had been working for a relatively short time, but he found a great deal that is good in it. He even said that if he kept on working and could manage to work out his idea, he held out the prospect that he would surpass Millet, who as you know was one of the greatest painters that ever was, in expression. But speaking of success with the public, he thought that that would go slowly, very slowly. But, he went on, if it might please him, tell him that he has my sympathy entirely. So we must wait and see, and if he produces good work, which great men think is good and admirable, try to forgive him his peculiarities in everyday life. I regard the money I give him as payment for his work and as such he earns it. Perhaps it will take a long time, but one day it will be valuable, only I wish it was soon so that people would regard him in a different light from the way they do now’ (FR b939).
We do not know whether Serret was a dealer as well as an artist – his name does not appear in Goupil’s sales ledgers.
8. The novel Germinal by Emile Zola, which Theo had sent: see letter 505.